Many things have changed in the last few decades. Perhaps one of the most drastic changes has been in the accepted definition of family. Years ago, a woman choosing to have a baby out of wedlock would have been frowned upon. Yet today – according to statistics 1/3rd of all children are being raised in single-family homes. And many of these single-family homes are led by women who have decided on their own free will, to take their familial fate into their own hands and conceive without a partner.
A study out of the University of Connecticut conducted in 2005, also reveals that the vast majority of women who choose to get pregnant on their own – are older than the average mother and well educated. On average, those using sperm banks and in-vitro fertilization or choosing to adopt in order to have a family without a partner are 38 – 42 years of age, and have completed college and have a successful career. And these women have strong support systems in place comprised of friends and family members who support their decision. Even more relevant is that these pregnancies and/or adoptions are ‘planned’ children and the women involved tend to put a lot more thought and planning into the conception of a child than the average marriage couple winging it on birth control. For the women who fit this demographic, the realization that having children of their own is an important denominator in their happy and successful lives catapults their desire to have a baby.
Sociologists believe that as women become more successful in the workplace, and are being raised to put forth more effort into their education rather than in just finding a mate and settling down, more and more women will make this choice of parenthood – through adoption or fertilization measures, in the future. As a result, the single-family household led by a parent without a partner is now becoming an accepted form of family. And why not? Smart, educated women shouldn’t have to wait to become parents until they find Mr. Right, right? And choosing to have a baby alone is far better than becoming a parent with someone that is abusive, or within the confines of a relationship that is not happy. If medical advancements allow women to conceive alone, then it should not be scrutinized by others.
Many people worry that the lack of male influences in a child’s life can or will lead to emotional problems later. Others argue that going it alone by choice, defies nature – and will eventually leave children brought into the world in this manner, confused about their identity. Yet child psychologists seem to be united in their research that concludes children raised in happy, loving, supportive homes whether by one parent or two, tend to be the most well of in the terms of emotional health as they enter adulthood. An agency called, Single Mothers By Choice, which supports and serves as a community for women choosing to become pregnant (or adopt) without a partner reiterates the fact that being a single parent in no way defines a child’s emotional outcome.
In fact, marital and relationship problems are often the root of emotional problems for children. If a woman decides she is in a secure place to have a child alone, and is not complicated with relationship issues, the child will likely grow up with less emotional problems. Furthermore, having a child alone in no way stymies the relationship that the child will have with men. There are often plenty of male friends, cousins, grandparents, uncles etc. who easily fill the ‘male perceived’ void that is left when a woman takes her fertility in her own hands.
Some people are concerned with how the conception will be explained to a child down the road. Today, millions of people are using artificial methods of fertility to have babies. In fact, one out of every 3 babies born today was conceived via unnatural methods. And these babies are no different. Plus, a child will at some point understand that their mother wished for and desired a child, and put quite a bit of effort (and money) into becoming a family, which may make the child feel even more loved and special.
One of the things that set women who knowingly become single parents versus those that become single mothers accidentally (through divorce or unprotected sex) is that the women choosing pregnancy alone are prepared. Emotionally, physically and financially. They do not arrive at the threshold of parenthood with totally different expectations of having help, or of a partner to fill the role as the perfect dad. They realize from the beginning what they are getting into, and aren’t left feeling disappointed or inadequate because their vision of ‘family’ has been turned completely upside down by an unfortunate relationship. In the grand scope of things, this makes a huge difference in their ability to parent – and parent well. While the newly single mother may take months or even years to adjust to her new situation – these mothers start out single. By choice.
At the end of the day, it is not up to you, or me – to decide what is right for someone else. The rules of life are changing, and women are becoming empowered to make decisions about their fertility alone. Experts believe that in the next decade, there will be more and more women choosing pregnancy out of wedlock – and that eventually, it too will become just another normal version of the new definition of ‘family.’